A Missouri liberal arts college will join the ranks of schools offering scholarships to eSports players.
Columbia College (of Columbia, Mo.,) will also hire a recruiter meant to target the Kansas City and St. Louis areas to bring talented League of Legends competitors to the school, reports KOMU-TV.
Bryan Curtis, the college's director of eSports, will be tasked with finding 12 players — two teams of five plus one alternate each — for the college's inaugural League of Legends team. Columbia College's president, Scott Dalrymple, said the idea of offering scholarships to gamers came to him while playing Madden NFL last year.
"eSports aren't the future," Dalrymple said in a statement, "they're the present. True skill at video gaming is just as impressive — and just as legitimate — as excellence in traditional sports."
The program begins next fall. It's unclear whether Columbia College is offering full or partial scholarships. Its tuition for new students is $10,468 per semester.
"eSports aren't the future, they're the present."
The college also will convert an old soccer locker room into a "gaming hut," KOMU reported, that will serve as the clubhouse for the gaming team but also will include consoles for other students and faculty to use.
The University of Pikeville in Kentucky began offering scholarships this fall for eSports competitors. Robert Morris University of Illinois formally added eSports to its athletics program last year, including scholarship offers to student gamers. The Collegiate StarLeague also boasts of more than 10,000 players at more than 450 colleges nationwide, and last year Riot Games, maker of League of Legends, opened a North American Collegiate Champion seriesawarding more than $100,000 in scholarship money.
eSports are not currently recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and so these activities are not subject to NCAA regulation.
Columbia College has 36 satellite campuses across the United States and a sizeable, 15-year-old online degree program, so the publicity of an eSports scholarship offer certainly helps its marketing efforts there. Meanwhile, the state of Missouri has seen a five-year decline in the size of graduating high school senior classes, forcing its universities and colleges to look out of state to keep their enrollments up.